Aisle of the Damned: 07/28/17- The Hidden Secrets in Henry Cavill’s Mustache

Check yourself for VD

Luc Besson is back to making French comic book sci-fi and, much like The Fifth Element, it’s incredibly divisive. What did Kent think of Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets? And what did he think of the Medieval sex comedy The Little Hours with a who’s who of comedy stars?

But even before that, we look at a metric ton of San Diego Comic Con news and trailers. Prepare yourself for all of this and less on Aisle of the Damned!

The Aquabats- Stuck in a Movie
Sloppy Seconds- Queen of Outer Space

Aisle of the Damned: 8/11/16- Suicide is Aimless

Mom, my crayons melted

Bryan and Kent take on a mission with little chance of survival; they’re bringing you their thoughts on Warner Bros.’ latest DC offerings, the controversial-for-all-of-five-minutes-because-of-an-R-rating Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (The Ultimate Cut) and David Ayer’s Suicide Squad.

After discussing the showy failures of Squad, they also discuss the tempered rewards of the 13th film in the Star Trek franchise, Star Trek Beyond.

Plus, Kent talks about Jason Bourne and Lights Out and the fellas give their recommendations for the week, one DC related and one decidedly not.

All this and less on Aisle of the Damned!


The Aquabats– Stuck in a Movie
Death Hymn Number 9– I Reckon You Gonna Die

Kent’s Damned Movie Reviews: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Sad Batman is Sad

I’ve been a defender of Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel. Despite the issues I have with it (the terrible color correction, the insane death of Jonathan Kent, etc.), I thought it made the best of some source material that I always found questionable, aka forcing a Xerox of Batman’s spirit quest around the world into his mythology. I guess I was so relieved to finally have a Superman movie without an awful, over-the-top bumbling Clark Kent performance, a nonsense Luthor scheme, fluctuating powers that defy the movie’s internal logic, bastard kids or a thoroughly dislikable Lois Lane that I could overlook the flaws. After all, despite the bleakness, there’s promise in the film. Clark has finished a costly first battle and is in a position to use that sacrifice to learn and be the hero he should be. He can take his actions from Man of Steel and build on them, vowing to never take another life. Though unlike all the people who apparently have forgotten both the comics and the ending of their beloved Superman II, I had no problem with Clark killing Zod, seeing as how he’s the one character Superman has ever knowingly offed.

The question was, would the sequel build on that promise, or would it double down on the unique problems this take brought to the franchise? All of the marketing material seemed to indicate this would not so much be a Superman sequel as either a proto-Justice League movie or a jumping off point to a Frank Miller Batman franchise, none of which sounded particularly appealing. Unfortunately, this is largely correct. Superman seems like an also-ran in his own film for the most part.

After a strangely gripping prologue that gives a street level view of the devastation wrought by the battle between Clark and Zod in Man of Steel, the film settles in for an hour or so, spending a lot of time introducing us to this version of Batman, who follows the natural through line from Burton to Nolan to Snyder, finally adopting a fully-functional Dark Knight Returns-style Batman who is equal parts psychotic and broken. An impotent man who takes out his fury by torturing criminals and not especially caring if people die in his pursuit of self-serving justice. It’s certainly not my favorite style of Batman (I skew much farther towards the Denny O’Neil-style well-rounded version) but much as certain fanboys may deny it, this version of Batman is what many of them have been angling for.  Be careful what you wish for.

Meanwhile, we see Superman performing many acts of heroism, saving people around the world from disasters, intercut with footage of a world who doesn’t know how to react to him or trust him. It’s not so much a bad portrayal of Kal-El, but it certainly does create a morose environment surrounding him. After much sturm and drang, this overall paranoia leads to the confrontation of the title. To reveal much more would be to give away the mechanics of the plot, but it is fair to point out the much touted appearances by other Justice League members don’t just feel distracting, but actually lower the excitement over Warners’ plans for their characters.

The good news is that while the film is full of bad ideas, the ideas are filmed and acted competently. The bad news is that competence doesn’t fix bad ideas, it simply makes them go down easier. Make no mistake; there are some things to enjoy in the film which make it still worth seeing. Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman does great things with her limited screentime. Gadot herself, apart from seeming to have trouble getting her Israeli accent around some of the overinflated dialogue, is a wonderful physical actress. Jeremy Irons’ Alfred manages to be an absolutely necessary source of humor in an otherwise dour affair. The majority of the acting is fine, even Ben Affleck’s, though he comes up short selling Batman’s character arc and revelation moment. The major exception is Jessie Eisenberg who seems to be edited in from a completely different film. While I’ve never been a fan of the way Luthor has been used in the Superman films, it’s quite a shock to go from the intelligent menace of Kevin Spacey’s portrayal to Eisenberg’s collection of tics and vocal contortions masquerading as a performance. He plays Lex Luthor as some kind of bizarre Joker variation, his motivation either making him pathetic or a puppet. Sometimes he is effectively creepy, but mostly he comes off as annoying.

The plot grabs famous storylines from the two characters at random like Scrabble tiles from a bag. In the end, what we have is a mess. A mess that is interesting, but overly long and needlessly complicated. It has a fourth act tacked on because there was never a scenario where the Superman/Batman fight could be dramatically satisfying as a conclusion.

Worse, in their misguided race to force a rivalry with Marvel Studios, Warner Bros. attempts to cram huge amounts of set-up into the film and none of that set-up feels earned. Watching it feels like we missed a few movies that were released between Man of Steel and now. Many audience members may even be completely lost as to what a lot of what is going on. When your entire movie is based on laying a foundation for future installments, that should be rather disconcerting. As of this moment, I’m not particularly looking forward to Justice League. Or Suicide Squad with its copy and paste characters who look like they stepped out of a 90s pitch meeting when “edgy” was still a buzzword. Wonder Woman and the Lego Batman Movie are they only DC film projects which continue to pique my interest. As I am a person who was a big DC fan until fairly recently, that kind of reaction should have Warner Bros. concerned. Somehow, I don’t think they’ll care.

(Two and a half damns given out of five)

Aisle of the Damned: 3/29/16- Batman Can’t Get a Boner

The right one is up front

In the historic tradition of such epic cinematic grudge matches as Godzilla vs Mothra and Kramer vs Kramer comes Batman v Superman. As DC bets the farm on Frank Miller fanboys, Bryan and Kent also set about to fighting; one of them hates it while the other… hates it less. Also, looks at 10 Cloverfield Lane, London Has Fallen, Zootopia, the Ghostbusters ’16 trailer and our host recommendations. All this and less on Aisle of the Damned.

The Aquabats- Stuck in a Movie
Will Arnett- Untitled Self Portrait

Aisle of the Damned 09-23-15: Bye, Felicia!

Gimme that that that nut

Kent’s back from his vacation and we are ready to roll. A couple of white guys talk about the musical biopic/memoir Straight Outta Compton about the rise of NWA and 90’s gangsta rap. We also bitch and moan about the late summer/fall wasteland this year. Meanwhile, Kent took in Guy Ritchie’s lukewarmly received TV update The Man From U.N.C.L.E with Superman and a Winklevoss twin.

The Aquabats: Stuck in a Movie
Ben Folds: Bitches Ain’t Shit

Kent’s Damned Movie Reviews: Man of Steel

Woman of Tissue

For all his flaws, I tend to be, if not a Zach Snyder supporter, then at least Snyder neutral. I found his Dawn of the Dead remake to be largely unneeded but not insulting (and the one film he’s done that actually had a good selection of songs.) 300 was entertaining and certainly gave us a lot of eye candy. I will defend Watchmen as having surface problems (like the mostly terrible soundtrack), but being near as good as anyone could have made it into a feature film. It certainly was more ‘extreme’ than the comic, but that in itself almost seems like a commentary on Watchmen’s effect on the comic industry. Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole was not what I would consider a great film, but as a children’s film it was, once again, not insulting. It also was one of the better films at incorporating 3D. Plus, I respect any director willing to make the leap to a new type of media, the way Brad Bird, Wes Anderson, Spielberg, etc. have started to do, slipping from animation to live action and vice versa. The one absolute turd in the punch bowl of his career is Sucker Punch and on that one I will admit he made an abomination so bad that it is probably one of the worst films I have ever seen, even if parts of it were fun to look at.

To add further context, I’m one of the rare individuals out there that isn’t just a Superman fan (love the big, blue boy scout), but one that hates the Donner movies. And by extension, Superman Returns, which took all the flaws of the Donner films and multiplied them exponentially while cutting out all the redeeming qualities. I have never seen a more radical misstep than the storyline involving his illegitimate son. It’s not like I haven’t enjoyed Superman on film, but for some reason the interpretations I respected and admired were all on TV. The animated series would have to be top of the heap, along with it’s parlance into Justice League, but also the George Reeves series, Lois and Clark and even Smallville because they all were smart enough to respect the character of Clark Kent, unlike the bumbling fool that he became under Christopher Reeves.

So it was with understandable trepidation I approached Man of Steel.

Somehow, against all odds and beyond all reason, I finally found a Superman film I can embrace. Is it perfect? No. As I was dissecting things with a friend afterwards, more and more things started to come out to nitpick. To name a few things that came up, it was too serious, it was a little long, it effs with the mythology in ways that I was not happy with. And while he may be the Man of Steel, he apparently has a suit of dodgeball material. Seriously, that thing is terrible. Can we put the guy back in his proper uniform instead of this New 52 garbage? Yet in the most important ways, it was the Superman movie I have been waiting for.

Apparently, the over-the-top visual style of Zach Snyder and the gloomy story stylings of Christopher Nolan, for all the oddness of the pairing, resulted in them meeting in the middle. The best way I can describe the result is with an oxymoron: it is like an intelligent Michael Bay film. While a great deal of the beginning of the film moves slowly and focuses on character while detailing the life of Clark as he prepares to assume the mantle of Superman (Snyder’s restraint is admirable at this point), once the last third of the film kicks in, the action is nearly non-stop and features a kind of overkill in the destruction I have never before seen. It finally captures, someplace other than animation, the power of these characters engaged in combat. The military is featured in the film as a positive force (for the most part.) And where Superman Returns sought to eliminate it, Man of Steel embraces the character’s deep American symbolism. (It also embraces his Kansas roots in several ways, not running from the rural beginnings of the character.) Destruction, long action sequences and military rah-rah show up in Bay’s films all the time. The differences here are, a) someone seems to have given a crap about the script and b) Snyder is much better at actually putting together sequences that make a logical sense, or he has a much better editor.

Then there is the subtext; the religious nature of the Superman mythos has always been present. His origin is, after all, a cosmic retelling of the story of Moses. But Steel manages to inject the film with, if not a more subtle allegory, than certainly a more palatable presentation than we got from Bryan Singer.

My biggest problems with the film were the ways in which it messed with the mythology the most. There have obviously been changes when it comes to Superman’s mythos over the years. Hell, Kryptonite, Jimmy Olsen and Perry White all came from the radio show in the 40s and were adopted into the larger Superman universe. But at this point, some things are sacrosanct. The film flirts wildly with violating that… and yet, it seems to have been done from a respectful place. Most of the largest changes make sense within the story they’re telling, so I was able to put aside my bile and muscle through, much to my benefit.

So far as the performances go, Henry Cavill makes a splendid Man of Tomorrow, even if he needs a spit curl. His Clark is just plain good, with emotions simmering below the surface. Amy Adams and Laurence Fishburne as Lois Lane and Perry White are serviceable, if generic and subdued. The standouts here are Russell Crowe and Kevin Costner as Clark’s two dads from different worlds. Both do a hell of a lot with what they are given. Michael Shannon’s Zod manages to completely break with Terrance Stamp’s iconic portrayal, much to his gain. He manages to project genuine menace.

I’m not sure how I’ll feel towards this film with a second viewing or years down the road. All I know is, for the time being I finally like a Superman movie and it feels good.

(Four damns out of five)